Is Crossing Dog's Chain Perimeter Considered ''Provocation'' (As a Defense In Dog Bite Cases) ?

In Stehl v. Dose, 83 Ill. App. 3d 440, 403 N.E.2d 1301, 38 Ill. Dec. 697 (1980), the plaintiff was attacked by the defendant's 100-pound German shepherd, which the defendant kept tied on a 25-foot chain. The defendant wanted to get rid of the dog because he was afraid that his young son might get within the dog's reach. When the plaintiff heard about the defendant's dog, he offered to take the dog. The plaintiff was familiar with German shepherds and had been around them his whole life. The defendant's hired man, George, told the plaintiff that he could pick the dog up in the afternoon. The plaintiff brought a bag of food scraps for the dog and took the bag to a point three to four feet inside the perimeter of his chain. After petting and talking to the dog, the plaintiff turned his head to go find a rope and the dog attacked, sinking his fangs into the plaintiff's right forearm. The plaintiff had to endure extensive medical treatment. The jury returned a verdict in favor of the defendant. On appeal, this court stated that the issue in the case was whether it was provocation for the plaintiff, acting in a peaceable manner, to cross the perimeter of the dog's chain. The court also focused on the fact that the plaintiff entered the territory that the dog was protecting and remained within the dog's reach while he was eating. Because the court determined that the answer to the question was for the jury to determine, it could not find that the verdict was contrary to the manifest weight of the evidence. The court did state, however, that the question of what conduct constitutes provocation is primarily a question of whether the plaintiff's actions would be provocative to the dog. Thus, the court determined that neither the fact that the plaintiff had the owner's permission to approach the dog nor the fact that the plaintiff was conducting himself in a manner approved by the hired hand was a matter bearing on the issue of provocation. Stehl, 83 Ill. App. 3d at 443, 403 N.E.2d at 1303.